The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is now the first council to shift to a fully cloud-based infrastructure to cut costs and future-proof its IT systems, with the government touting the organisation as a model for others to follow.
With the exception of virtualised desktops running off its in-house servers, the council's entire host of applications, services and back-end systems are being pushed into the cloud.
Migration of data and business applications to the cloud is being carried out on a server-by-server basis and is predicted to be completed this summer.
The move allows the council to break from its reliance on its own data centre and outdated systems and will help save more than £2m across a five-year period.
While the council has been considering integrating cloud into its back-end systems for several years, the move to a cloud infrastructure was prompted by outdated in-house IT hardware and software that needed to be refreshed in order to avoid a potential catastrophe.
Rocco Labellarte, head of Technology and Change Delivery for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, told V3 that out of "adversity comes opportunity" referring to how the council's need to refresh its IT coincided with a bevy of existing contracts coming to an end and the launch of G-Cloud.
However, Labellarte did add: "We've had to do a hell of a lot of work to get it right."
In order to rapidly establish a cloud model that is compliant with public-sector network security regulations, the council procured various service suppliers through the government's G-Cloud initiative hosted with some of the largest providers.
These include Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, who provide the data centres that support the council's cloud infrastructure.
Some might think that using using two data centre providers instead of one to power a cloud model is overly complex. But Labellarte said he believes using two creates a definitive cloud infrastructure rather than one that is outsourced.
"This encourages a competitive edge between the two providers," added Labellarte. "G-Cloud's short-term contracts mean we have the ability to switch to more cost-effective provider."
According to Labellarte, cost was the core factor that prompted the council's move to the cloud.
While plans for a cloud IT model were conceived back in 2010, the recession was in full tilt and would have made the shift a prohibitively expensive proposition. However, with advances in communications and computing technology supporting cloud computing, the borough council committed to the cloud in 2012. Labellarte added: "Cloud seemed like the right bandwagon to get on at the time."
When asked if other councils were likely to follow the example set by the borough and fully embrace the cloud, Labellarte was mildly sceptical. "I know there are two to three councils trying to move in this direction. Most of my colleagues in local government are dipping their toes in the water with cloud solutions or getting applications such as Salesforce into the cloud.
"There are not many pushing for a full cloud infrastructure. There's no fast following at the moment due to concerns over security and cost," he concluded.
It is likely that many local councils considering the cloud will keep an eye on how the move to a complete cloud infrastructure works out for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead council, before they commit themselves.
In contrast, the central government appears to be wholly committing to the cloud with recent figures indicating that its departments are contributing to 80 percent of the total sales carried out through G-Cloud.
For more information on cloud computing, visit the Intel IT Center.
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